Bank Presence and Health

Kim Fe Cramer

What role does bank presence play in improving health? To explore this question, I use a policy of the Reserve Bank of India from 2005 that incentivizes banks to set up new branches in underbanked districts, defined as having a population-to-branch ratio larger than the national average. In a regression discontinuity design, I compare households in districts just above and just below the national average. Six years after the policy introduction, households in treatment districts are a third less likely to be affected by an illness in a month. They miss fewer days of work or school due to an illness and have lower medical expenses. Ten years after the policy was introduced, I observe persistently lower morbidity rates, higher vaccination rates, and lower risks associated with pregnancies. provide evidence that two previously understudied aspects of banking contribute to the effect: households gain access to health insurance and health care providers gain access to credit. In equilibrium, I observe an increase in health care demand and supply.

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